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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Sickle Cell Disease

Lifestyle changes will not cure sickle cell disease. However, they may reduce the number and severity of sickle cell crises.

General Guidelines for Managing Sickle Cell Disease

Eat a Balanced Diet, Including Folic Acid Supplementation

Healthy foods can help your overall health. It can make your body better at fighting infections. Folic acid is very important in making red blood cells. This may reduce the impact of anemia.

Drink Plenty of Water

Low levels of fluid in the body make it easier for blood cells to clump together. This can lead to sickle cell crisis. Aim for at least 8 full glasses of water each day.

Avoid Excessive Exercise

Physical activity is important for overall health and energy. But strenuous activity can be dangerous. It can lower the amount of oxygen that is available in your body. This can increase the risk of a sickle cell crisis. Talk to your doctor about what kind of exercise is best for you.

Get Sufficient Rest

All bodies need time to rest and recover. It will help you stay as healthy as possible.

During an Acute Sickle Cell Crisis

Keep in touch with your medical care team. Ask about which symptoms should prompt a call to the doctor. Be sure to seek medical attention for a fever of 101°F (38.5°C) or greater.

Rest in Bed

A crisis will lower the amount of oxygen that is available to your body. Being active will increase your need for oxygen. Combined they can lower the oxygen for your organs. This can lead to permanent tissue damage.

Bed rest during an acute sickle cell crisis can reduce this risk.

Avoid Physical and Emotional Stress

Physical and emotional stress both seem to trigger acute sickle cell crisis. Look for steps to avoid this type of stress. Learn about steps that may help you relax.

Consider Joining a Support Group

Chronic diseases can be very stressful. Support groups can be very helpful. You may learn or share coping strategies with others who also have sickle cell disease.

Avoid Factors That Can Worsen Your Condition or Lead to Infection

Factors that can start or worsen a crisis include:

  • Tobacco
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamines
  • Alcohol

Salmonella is a bacteria known to make people ill. It can be more harmful in people with sickle cell disease. To decrease your risk of exposure to salmonella:

  • Do not keep turtles, snakes, or lizards as pets.
  • Thoroughly cook chicken and eggs before eating.

References:

Complications and treatments. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 31, 2016. Accessed December 13, 2016.
How is sickle cell disease treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 2, 2016. Accessed December 13, 2016.
Living with sickle cell disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 2, 2016. Accessed December 13, 2016.
Sickle cell disease. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 2012. Accessed July 1, 2013.
Sickle cell disease in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated October 4, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Sickle cell disease in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated September 20, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Last reviewed December 2017 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 7/11/2018

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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